Taking the measure of New Mexico's colonial miners, mining, and metallurgy

Charles David Vaughan
Dept. of ANthropology, University of New Mexico
July, 2006


This dissertation investigates strategies of Spanish colonialism and European-Native inter-societal interaction in the Western Borderland through a study of the colonial mining enterprise in Central New Mexico ( c. 1540-1821 ). New knowledge about the colonial mining venture is constructed using a multidisciplinary approach combining historical, archaeological, geological, and materials science-based research. A relational database is employed to integrate observations about mining and metallurgy in colonial New Mexico acquired by sifting through document collections from the Spanish and Mexican national archives and other sources, systematically examining reports and collections from dozens of archaeological sites and mining districts, and conducting petrographic and electron microscopic analyses of metal production debris from a variety of regional mining settlements. The results of integrating the data derived from measurements taken across these disciplines reveal that seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth century mining and metal production in colonial New Mexico bore little resemblance to the traditional view of its characteristics, purpose, consequences and significance.